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Nature Girl

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 4)

Carl Hiaasen introduces a host of odd characters in Nature Girl while following his well-established humorously satirical style of writing about the destruction of nature in his native Florida and condemning the contributing roles of builders, developers, politicians, and uncaring individuals. His concern about nature started during his childhood and led to his becoming an investigative reporter. His riotously funny fictional characters border on the absurd while being not too far off the mark as caricatures of real people with attributes such as bipolar disorder, greed, lust, and stupidity. His adult novels have a predilection toward strong-willed, sexy, wacky women paired with men who are losers, although there is always a hero-type male thrown into the mix.

Nature Girl met with general enthusiasm from Hiaasen’s fans but a bit of gentle criticism from professional reviewers. Janet Maslin of The New York Times, in a review for the International Herald Tribune, wrote, “The arrival of each of his new novels makes the world a slightly happier place” but in Nature Girl,once he has stocked the book’s swampy setting with amusing oddballs, something funny happens: nothing. Though he is never short of articulate and crisp dialogue, and though his deft word choices are part of the pleasure of reading him, Hiaasen sounds slightly mechanical this time. This book doesn’t fall flat, but neither does it really take flight.

Carolyn See, in The Washington Post Book World, indicated that Nature Girl did not meet the top-notch quality of the author’s Native Tongue (1991) but tempered the criticism by adding, “an ordinary, almost automatic Carl Hiaasen novel is about 10,000 times better than no Hiaasen novel at all.” Carolyn Juris, in The Washington Post column “Media Mix: A Quick Take on New Releases,” gave the book a B- while declaring, “the meandering plot lacks momentum or urgency.” David Lazarus, in contrast, in his San Francisco Chronicle review, called Nature Girl one of Hiaasen’s “better efforts.” Bill Ott, writing in Booklist, similarly liked the book “because Hiaasen is still as funny as any thriller writer alive.”

Honey Santana, the nature girl of the title, is a divorced mother of a twelve-year-old boy, Fry, who lives with her in a mobile home in Everglades City, Florida. She reaches her breaking point one night when Boyd Shreave of Relentless, Inc., a telemarketing firm based in Texas, calls at dinnertime to offer her a deal on real estate in north-central Florida. She is tired of telemarketers interrupting her meals and tired of the rudeness of people in general. She has just been fired for assaulting her lecherous boss and has secretly not been taking her medication for several weeks.

Honey had been diagnosed as bipolar and has been off her medicine long enough for her to begin hearing music playing in her head, always two disparate tunes competing for her attention. Fry, a conscientious child, lets his father know that Mom may be heading for trouble. Fry’s father, Perry Skinner, a small town mayor who once did jail time for drug running, decided years ago that he could not deal with Honey’s craziness and filed for divorce just prior to her doing the same. Not able to forgive him for filing the divorce papers first, making her seem the one at fault, Honey often shows her bitterness by referring to him as Fry’s ex-father rather than as her ex>husband.

Honey decides to turn the tables on telemarketer Shreave and teach him some manners. She convinces her brother in upstate New York to use his reverse phone book to find the name of the company associated with the number that appeared on her phone. Honey then poses as a telemarketer and calls Shreave, offering him a trip for two to Florida and free accommodations if he agrees to listen to a real estate sales pitch when he and his companion arrive. Shreave recognizes the sales tactic, but his affair with Eugenie Fonda, the woman working in the telemarketing cubicle next...

(The entire section is 1,317 words.)